Pirates Fans - Stay Optimistic About Zach Thompson

Photo credit: Associated Press

Later on in the season when we begin to start really assessing the way the Pirates’ pitchers have thrown the ball this year, Monday’s line for Zach Thompson won’t look so pretty. But it’s also a sign of how quickly things can get away from a pitcher when plays aren’t made behind him.

Thompson’s final line on Monday read as follows: 4.0 innings pitched, six hits, six earned runs, five strikeouts, four walks, and the grand slam to Christian Yelich. Yeah, fairly ugly.

But not all is bad when you start to break down the outing.

Thompson’s breaking ball was on the move. He was missing a lot of bats throughout the entire four innings and his cutter and change-up were dancing. It was just all about locating pitches.

The Brewers were aggressive in the first inning putting both of Thompson’s first two pitches in play for singles. The second one was a ball hit right at the position where the second baseman would typically stand. Instead, Diego Castillo was shifted more towards second base.

What could’ve been a huge early double play assuredly would’ve kept his pitch count down. Instead, runners were at first and third and the Brewers eventually cashed in when a down-and-in breaking ball got away from catcher Roberto Perez and Brewers infielder Kolten Wong jumped immediately to score.

Thompson did well to wiggle out of that inning by striking out the next three batters he faced.

Thompson was able to retire eight straight before Yelich doubled to right field and continued his dominance against the Buccos. He then walked McCutchen, but got Rowdy Tellez to weakly pop-up to Ke’Bryan Hayes in the infield.

Then the wheels came off, but not necessarily by fault of Thompson.

With one out, Omar Narvaez hit a ball that ate up Bryan Reynolds a bit and caused him to misplay the fly ball that ultimately should’ve been caught. Lorenzo Cain, owner of a .158 average coming into the game, lined a ball down to right field.  Cole Tucker, playing right field again for some reason, naturally got to the ball but it bounced off his glove and ballooned the inning. A walk and a blast later, the game was 6-1 and vastly out of reach.

Two plays, neither being scored as errors, caused Thompson’s encouraging start to go to dirt. His ERA ballooned to 9.00 on the season despite a rather solid start.

Pittsburgh received Thompson in the Jacob Stallings trade along with pitcher Kyle Nicolas and outfielder Connor Scott. Thompson is a 28-year old former fifth-round pick that made his MLB debut for the Marlins last year.

Thompson’s career, even back to the minor leagues, hasn’t seen him strike out a lot of guys. However, if his stuff plays like that on a nightly basis and he’s able to locate his fastball a bit better, I could see a world where he is a solid back end rotation guy for the next few seasons.  Especially if he misses bats as much as he was last night.

For now, I’m going to remain optimistic knowing that some real hard luck contributed to an awful line for the starting pitcher.